One of the many reasons, and there are many, that South Africa is economically and socially in the doldrums is that there is simply no high quality leadership in government, business and society.
Those who choose to disagree with this statement are welcome to name the leader/s they believe are making a positive impact of some significance … Thought not.
What’s so puzzling is that, despite this dearth of leadership, there nevertheless is a plethora of leadership experts, coaches and business schools engaged in developing leaders. I know many of these people, and they’re all good, competent and sincere people, so I don’t make this statement with malicious intent.
Where, though, are the good leaders they have developed over the past 10 or 20 years? Why aren’t they doing what they’ve been trained, developed, mentored and coached to do?
We actually have to face the truth – we, as a nation, obviously aren’t as good at developing leaders as we thought we were. Let’s face the hard fact that, if we were, we would be surrounded by a bunch of excellent leaders at all levels who would be changing the country for the better.
How long will we continue to delude ourselves about this? When are we going to stop, realise that something isn’t working, and make changes to the way we’re developing our leaders so that we turn out leaders who, er, actually LEAD?
There are as many definitions for leadership as there are leadership experts. Most of these definitions have a measure of validity and merit, but are equally limited in their scope.
Based on my experience over the past decades, I have formulated my own definition of leadership as follows: leadership includes a set of qualities, skills and actions that take companies, communities or countries to a better future.
The obvious question arising from this definition is: what is the most effective way of doing this? If asked that question, I would answer: by inspiring and leveraging people’s desire to be, do and have more or better.
To test my definition, I have thrown at it all the usual terms associated with leadership to see if the definition passes the test. The terms include words such as: authenticity, character, collaboration, communication, competence, courage, delegation, ethics, fairness, humility, influence, innovation, inspiration, integrity, motivation, passion, purpose, strategy, trust and vision. These are just 20 words and there are probably another 220 that you could come up with in a matter of minutes.
As a leader, how many of these 20 qualities/skills/actions do you think you have? Note that I asked how many do you THINK you have. The reason for this is that, in my engagement with senior leaders, I have discovered that many leaders THINK they have certain leadership qualities … but they don’t display, in their actions, any evidence of those qualities.
A leader who thinks they are humble, but who displays no evidence of being humble is simply not humble. And the opposite of humility is … arrogance. There are plenty of arrogant leaders around, most of whom have not the slightest clue of their arrogance.
If, therefore, you were put on trial, in a court of law, for being a leader, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If you haven’t displayed any evidence of actions which reflect those qualities, you don’t have them and you would be found “not guilty” of being a leader, based on insufficient evidence.
When leaders start manifesting and applying the qualities, skills and actions that take their companies, communities and our country to a better future, we will start moving towards a better future. But until that happens, we will continue to be at the mercy of people who THINK they are leaders but who are not.
If you consider yourself to be a leader, I urge you to start building up the evidence to find you guilty of being a leader that takes people to a better future.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.